Dec 18, 2015

Renting from county now easier: Commission stops requiring proof of insurance from some groups

After getting an earful from the public, Park County commissioners are making it less difficult and more affordable to rent buildings at the fairgrounds.

No longer will individuals and non-profit organizations have to get $1 million of liability insurance coverage before renting county facilities, commissioners decided last month.

“I think we’re going down the right path, because a lot of people can't afford the insurance,” said Commissioner Tim French. “And they’re viewing it as a public facility that their tax dollars went towards.”

Millie Sheldon of Meeteetse arranges wooden figurines during the annual Kappa Kreative Krafts Fair at the Park County Fairgrounds' new exhibit hall last month. Commissioners are making it easier to rent out the building. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
For-profit events (such as those put on by businesses) will still need to get the $1 million of coverage; commissioners figure that most commercial ventures already have or can afford the insurance.

County officials originally assumed that getting the coverage was a fairly simple and inexpensive process for individuals and non-profits. However, in later checking with local insurance agents, Park County Events Coordinator Echo Renner found event coverage can be hard to get and can “easily” cost $300 a day. That’s particularly significant when you consider that renting, say, the fairgrounds’ Bicentennial Hall, is only $120 for non-commercial use.

Renner said the insurance requirement was “becoming a stumbling block” and preventing some people from renting.

Commissioners, who’d heard complaints of their own, unanimously voted to ease the policy Nov. 17.
“Personally, I think requiring it for individuals and nonprofits ... is an overkill,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden. “I think it will hinder and restrict a lot of the use down there, which is what we don’t want.”

It's long been the fair’s official policy that renters need $1 million of insurance coverage, but Renner said it generally had not been enforced until this year. That’s when commissioners took greater control of the grounds’ management and started requiring it.

Commissioners reaffirmed that position as recently as their Oct. 6 meeting, when they declined a request to waive the requirement for a Stomp and Company clogging recital.

“Personally, I think that anybody that has a function over there needs to provide insurance,” Tilden said at that time.

“It’s always been that way,” Commissioner Lee Livingston had agreed. “It’s time that it was enacted."

Just a week later, however, Renner asked commissioners to reconsider, saying the policy was proving “prohibitive to people wanting to utilize the very facilities I’ve been hired to market for use.” That request culminated in last week’s decision.

A couple Park County Fair Board members welcomed the change.

“That was one thing that people were really irate about,” said Fair Board President Steve Martin of the insurance requirement.

During last month’s discussion, commissioners wondered if they really need to require insurance from anyone.
“That was one thing that people were really irate about,” said Fair Board President Steve Martin of the insurance requirement.
Tilden said it’s his understanding that, with the county’s own insurance, “when anybody is on county property, we’re covered.” He also quoted Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric as basically saying that the county is fine either way.

In the end, commissioners opted to keep requiring the additional coverage with for-profit events.

“We’re all going to get sued, but it’s just maybe one layer of protection that keeps us from having to spend money defending something stupid,” Livingston explained.

Commissioners indicated they may continue to tweak the insurance requirements, perhaps to differentiate between smaller for-profit events and bigger ones.


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